THERE IS REALLY GOOD NEWS
The Holy Spirit is bringing us back to the foundations of The New Covenant:
1) Grace = God’s Unmerited Favor, Love and Blessing.
2) Our Righteousness in Christ = Our Right Standing with a good and loving God.
3) That Righteousness by faith is the key to understanding grace.
4) The finished and all sufficient work of the cross of Jesus Christ.
5) Our focus on our Righteousness (in Christ) instead of on our Sin.
MIXING LAW & GRACE
Many of us, without realizing it have been living our Christian lives by a mixture of grace and Old Testament Law. We have been trapped to a lesser or greater degree, in a cycle of self effort, perfectionism, unworthiness, condemnation, sin, guilt and sickness. To break these cycle we have more often than not resorted to imposing more religious laws, rules, demands and conditions on ourselves. All requiring even more self effort. After decades of trying to live this way many of us have become worn out, sick and joyless – it’s simply all too much for us.
There are two reasons why it is crucial that this issue be confronted:
1) This mixture is killing Christians and driving them to sin!
2) This mixture denies the effectiveness of the work of the cross and dishonors Jesus.
LAW PRODUCES DEATH
Paul’s teachings, especially in Romans and Galatians, makes it clear that we are not called to live by the Law or by a mixture of Law and grace. This mixture is in fact the main theme of most of Paul’s writings. He was constantly trying to deal with those Christians and non-believers in the Church who denied the sufficiency of grace and wanted to live and maintain their right standing with God (Righteousness) by keeping the ten commandments and other religious laws.
Paul teaches that trying to keep the Law produces condemnation, sickness and death. The Law is not there for us to live by but it is there to expose the sin of the unsaved and to emphasis their need for a savior. (I am happy to go through this scripture by scripture if anyone would like).
BUT JESUS PREACHED THE LAW
The problem is that when we look at the scriptures in the traditional way it appears that there is a lot of performance demands and law keeping placed on us, the New Covenant believer. Jesus clearly taught the keeping of the law, however it was in a specific context to those seeking to be justified (made righteous) by the keeping of the law, the self-righteous Jews. It is crucial that we read Jesus teaching in context and understand to whom the teachings were addresses otherwise we will bring ourselves under the Law.
READING SCRIPTURE IN CONTEXT
As New Covenant believers, when interpreting any scripture we must be seek to answer the following questions:
1) What is the context of the scripture
2) Who is speaking. ii) Who is he speaking to. iii) What issue was being addressed.
3) Is this teaching the Old Covenant or the New Covenant.
4) What Covenant are the people under who the teaching is addressed to.
5) How does this point to, or reveal, Jesus and His Kingdom.
6) How does this point to, or reveal, the cross and grace.
7) Does it expose self-righteous religiosity or righteousness by faith.
LAW OR GRACE TINTED GLASSES
If we realize that we have incorrectly mixed law and grace and have also taken scripture out of context, we will understand that this has affected the way we have interpreted scripture. When we choose to believe in grace we can re-examine the scriptures in their true context and from a position of pure grace. You will find that this will be an amazing journey and reveal glorious good news in Christ. For many it is like reading the Bible for the first time!
Discovering the Grace and Righteousness that is ours in Christ, our freedom from law keeping and self effort restores your joy and zeal for the “gospel, the good news”. Try it, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the difference between legalistic, mixed Christianity and Grace filled, Christ centered, Christianity.
A good example to start with is:
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN (REVISITED IN GRACE)
Luk 10:25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”……..
THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION
The story of the Good Samaritan is probably one of Jesus’ best known parables. We all learnt it as kids and were encouraged to be just like the good Samaritan. He was the epitome of the way a good Christian should live. We were constantly told a good Christians must “Love their neighbor”. This, it is said is the purpose of the parable. However, this generally accepted interpretation of this parable is a self- righteous law orientated view which has lead to huge condemnation and guilt among Christians, who in the majority of instances have found it difficult and actually impossible to fulfill in practice.
THE GRACE INTERPRETATION
You will be surprised to hear that the noble and worthy sentiment of “Loving our neighbor as yourself” was not actually the primary and core issue that Jesus was addressing in this parable. Sadly we have missed the crucial truth that Jesus was actually addressing.
Now if we choose to re-examine this parable in its context and from the position of grace we see a completely different message -almost the opposite to what we have traditionally been taught!
THE CONTEXT OF THE PARABLE
Jesus was speaking to an expert in the Law of Moses, a Pharisee, a Jews that believed he could be justified i.e. be made righteous, by keeping the Law of Moses.
This teacher was trying to catch Jesus out (Lk.10:25). The greater context was Jesus’ constant struggle against the self-righteous, legalistic religious practices of the Jews. These Teachers of the Law, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into speaking against Jewish Religion, the Law and the Temple so they could justify arresting him.
This Pharisee believed he was righteous and justified because he had supposedly kept all the Laws of Moses.
He wanted the JUSTIFY HIMSELF (v29), he definitely wasn’t looking for a savior.
TO THOSE UNDER LAW JESUS PREACHED LAW
This Pharisee, like all Jews, was under the Law of Moses. They believed that the Law of Moses had been given so that they could justify and save themselves through their good works and self effort.
This Pharisee was self-righteous and wanted people to know that he had kept the Laws that God required of him.
It appears from v25 that this Pharisee is wanting to know how to get eternal life, however as a Pharisee and Teacher of the Law, he already believed he had eternal life by keeping all the Laws of Moses….the truth is that “he wanted to justify himself” (v29) and wanted Jesus to confirm that his self-righteousness and law keeping was good enough.
Jesus in his amazing way now used the Law of Moses to expose this man’s self-righteous, the fact that no one can keep the law perfectly and that no one can obtain eternal life through keeping the law.
It is interesting how Jesus does this and it is a pattern He uses throughout the gospels when preaching to Jews e.g. The Rich Ruler (Mt.19:16) etc.
ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH THE 1st & 2nd LAW – REALLY?
(Lk.10:25-27) Put yourself in this parable and imagine you were the Pharisee and you ask Jesus:
Your question: ” Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus answer: “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
Your answer: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Jesus answer:”You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Now you have just quoted the first and second commandments. You know what is required but do you have eternal life? Have you and do you really love God with every part of yourself all the time. Hum, maybe, but I know I’m already falling short. How about loving your neighbor, all the time just like you love yourself…now I don’t know about you but now I know I really do fall short. Do you get what’s going on here? Are you sensing that if eternal life has to come through keeping the Law we are all in deep trouble and need a Savior, including the Pharisee – the problem is that unlike you and me, the Pharisee didn’t know it, he thinks he’s OK.
THE REAL MEANING OF THE PARABLE
This Pharisee thought he could keep the whole law perfectly, thus be justified and gain eternal life, without Jesus, without grace.
Now the real purpose of the parable comes out.
The Pharisee has agree with Jesus that to gain eternal life he must love his neighbor as himself.
The Pharisee even asks Jesus “Who is this neighbor – that I must love like myself”? (v29)
Jesus then tell him the parable about the neighbor.
Jesus asks the Pharisee the shocking and tricky question “Who do you think was the neighbor”? (v36).
Look at it carefully, who was the neighbor?
The neighbor that the Pharisee is called to” love like himself” so he may gain eternal life turns out to be the Samaritan! (v36).
So here is the whole point: To be justified through keeping the Law the Pharisee has to perfectly obey the second commandment (and in fact all ten) and to do this he has to love a Samaritan.
However there is a problem as John 4:9 says “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” and shows the Jewish attitude to them 8:48 “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
The Law say he can’t go near as Samaritans as they are considered unclean
Hum, a big problem!! To keep the law he has to break it and if you break the law you lose his justification.
Meditate on this and you will see the whole purpose of the parable is completely different to the traditional view.
THE TRUE ISSUE OF THE STORY
Jesus was teaching to those who wanted to hear: No one can be justified by the keeping of the law and that everyone need to acknowledge that they fall short and needs to be saved by Jesus.
By the way it’s good and wonderful to love our neighbors but it won’t get us eternal life.
You will find that if you re-examine the scriptures in context and in grace many of them will reveal completely different truths to the traditional interpretations…try it for yourself, it’s wonderful and exciting and glorifies Christ and his work on the cross.
A FINAL PROVOCATIVE THOUGHT
Isn’t it strange that the Churches whose central focus and doctrine is “Regular and ongoing confession of sins” are often racked with the most terrible sins at the highest level. Could it be that law (legalistic Christianity) really does stir up sin just like Paul says? Yes, we all hate sin but it’s remedy is not focusing on and confessing sin – it is focusing on the cross and confessing our righteousness in Christ. More on this next time maybe.
Be blessed and joyful.
garry@gracelove truth.com +27845562786